Virgin Atlantic has announced the suspension of flights between London Heathrow and Accra, citing the high cost of fuel in Ghana as well as poor flight timings.
Virgin launched flights some 3 years ago but has struggled to compete with British Airways which has the obvious benefit of a far greater onward route network at Heathrow. In addition, the scarcity of slots at Heathrow meant that Virgin was only able to offer a morning departure from Accra, less popular and convenient than British Airways overnight flight back to the UK which allows for many more onward connections, especially to the US. Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have also complained about the high cost of aviation fuel in Ghana, somewhat ironic as the sudden interest in Ghana has come about because of the discovery of huge offshore oil reserves.
Commenting on the decision, Edmond Rose from Virgin Atlantic stated: “We have had to take the difficult decision to suspend our services between London and Accra. We were excited to enter the market and have been pleased to be part of the growth and development taking place in the country. However, we have been severely impacted by the price of fuel in Ghana which has resulted in us being forced to tanker fuel into Accra from the UK. Scarcity of slots at London Heathrow has meant that we have been unable to offer morning arrivals into London, which makes us a less attractive option for the business traveller. This has also limited our ability to offer connections onto our wider transatlantic network. These are still challenging times for the airline industry and we have to deploy our aircraft to routes with the right level of demand to be financially viable.”
The airline’s last flight from Ghana will depart on 23rd September.
For British Airways, under pressure on so many routes around the world, today’s announcement will come as welcome news. West Africa is, in many ways, the ideal market for British Airways; a growing population, increasingly affluent middle class, a significant business travel market, near total lack of local airline competition and an insignificant threat from indirect carriers, means that this a region we can expect the airline to profit from for many years to come.